PORT MORESBY,12 FEBRUARY 2018 (THE GUARDIAN)—Papua New Guinea has been told by the United Nations’ top human rights official that it is obligated to take care of hundreds of refugees sent there by Australia.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, raised the issue with the PNG prime minister, Peter O’Neill, in a meeting in Port Moresby on Friday, Zeid’s spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, said.


Australia built a hell for refugees on Manus. The shame will outlive us all

Shamdasani said Zeid and O’Neill discussed the need for PNG to ensure that refugees were living in “satisfactory” conditions with protection for their human rights.

“That is the duty of the state of Papua New Guinea to ensure that happens while they’re on their territory,” she said by phone from Fiji’s capital, Suva, where the delegation travelled after leaving PNG.

“He will certainly be following up with Australia as well,” she said.

Officials in PNG were unavailable for comment.

The refugees, from countries including Pakistan, Sudan and Iran, were trying to reach Australia by boat.

After detaining the refugees at sea, Australia transported them to its offshore processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

In 2016, PNG’s supreme court ruled that it was illegal to detain the nearly 800 refugees, as well as asylum seekers who have not been registered as refugees, on Manus Island.

In October, Australia withdrew all services to the facility and said it would fund three new “transit centres” on Manus, where refugees would be provided with security, healthcare and money to buy food.

But in a report last week, Amnesty International said the refugees were “at risk of violence from the local community and the authorities, who have disavowed responsibility for them”.

It said conditions at the transit centres were unsafe, adding that police had failed to investigate robberies and assaults against some refugees.

An official at the Australian Border Force said the government had previously replied to criticisms of its policies, including in a November statement that said the new transit centres provided “clean, safe alternative accommodation”…..PACNEWS [/restrict]